Felicity at The Dark Night Chronicles challenged her readers to come up with a flash fiction piece with the prompt “Absence”. I don’t typically do flash fiction, but I thought I’d give it a shot. Ninety-nine words.


He walked down to the river. It was their place, of privacy, of love.

The riverbed dried up after three years of drought and there was nothing but cracked earth and a hollow wind that sounded like her voice.

Come to the river, it said, and he did. Every night.

She left him for the Purina salesman. Flirted right in front of him as he explained the lack of byproducts and nutrition.

He kept the house, the barn, the dogs. But he couldn’t keep her.

Come to the river, she said, every night, and so he did. Every night.

Ordinary Handsome: Pine

Excerpt from Ordinary Handsome. Available at
Dark reading for a cold night.
Memories came in a heap, shovelfuls of images, tangled moments that defined who you were:
Sitting at the kitchen table and drawing, your dad sitting beside you, and you drank lemonade and ate half-burnt butter cookies. A singular slant of sunshine that hit the pavement one early spring morning, glorious for its fractured, fragile light. The first girl who kissed you and you wondered if you’d ever kiss like that again. And, well, if you didn’t marry that girl and share plenty of kisses with her. Sometimes, life was kind.
But those dark days of grief… sometimes they still, even now, eclipse everything else.
That night stands alone as the darkest. The boy did not come back. And you weren’t sure you wanted him to. Dying seemed simpler.
You never tried to find out where Dwight P. Ford came from, and you harbored him no ill-will. He was there for a time, and he helped you survive. You hoped he held onto his kindness.
You were hanging onto an old pine tree that night, not daring to lie down, or even move. You stood until the first hint of dawn, feeling as solid as ironwood, hoping your one good leg could stand it. You hugged that tree hard, literally hugged it, tapping whatever strength it had into yourself. For ten or more hours, you stood, determined not to die.
When the first handfuls of daylight started to claw through the dark, you found that pine branch crutch and walked, as unsteady as an infant. You walked towards Handsome for almost an hour before someone picked you up and took you to a hospital.
You swore you’d never go back. But of course you were weak back then.

Continue reading Ordinary Handsome: Pine

Ordinary Handsome: Old times


Cancer. In a way, that was a relief. Better dying from cancer than slowly being crushed by memories. He was old enough, and still alone, so it didn’t matter. He was at peace. One last time for old time’s sake, or some such nonsense. After he was done here, he’d stop at the Red Roof where he was staying and drink a bottle of something mean. Continue reading Ordinary Handsome: Old times


In the village of Woodbriar, North Dakota, Calvin Dobson was considered a minor celebrity. People would gather on the sidewalk in front of his house with their Polaroid cameras and smart phones, snapping shots of his snowmen. Cars would slow down and often stop in the middle of the road, and the passengers would stare at the marvelous sculptures he committed to snow. The children would often talk about them – perhaps dream about them — for days.

A shy man with a round and pleasant face, Calvin could be found every early morning artfully finishing his work. On any morning after a fresh and deep snowfall, Calvin was there, dressed in bulky overalls and a dingy wool cap. He worked with bare hands, and even from the sidewalk they were noticeably red and chapped. His usual pleasant face was unreadable as he blended and rubbed his hands against the snow, forming subtle texture and dimension. When he was done – usually before most folks finished their first mug of coffee – he would go inside and watch people’s reactions from his living room window.

Such was his work that it was featured in the Woodbriar Chamber of Commerce Visitors’ Guide, and his lawn was the informal highlight of the town’s Winter Fun Festival held every middle-of-January. It was rumored “Good Morning America” was interested in sending down a crew to film the artist at work, but that might have been wishful thinking.

Then one morning in early February – just two days after Groundhog Day – the sculptures stopped appearing. There were fourteen on Calvin’s lawn already, so no one noticed the absence of new ones until the weekend. An unusual winter thaw came with the new week, and the snowmen started to look unkempt and shaggy, more like clumps of snow artfully piled than the Renaissance sculptures of which they were compared. A visit from a concerned neighbor revealed that Calvin Dobson had died in his sleep – a massive coronary. The grief was widespread in Woodbriar, and flags were flown at half-staff the day of his burial. His snowmen stood dormant in his yard until spring gently dismantled them. Continue reading Snowpeople


“It’s today,” he said.

Annie was a good wife and so she helped her husband harbor his obsession. It had been a life-long obsession, and she knew this day would come the moment she agreed to marry him. She thought that one day it would disappear; perhaps he would find something less strange and more satisfying. Perhaps he would take up gardening or Internet Bingo or something equally innocuous. But she knew, in her heart, this day would come and things would change for them.

“I am quitting my job today,” said Matthew.

‘I know,” she said.

The letter “S” seduced him when he was six years old. He woke up one fine Tuesday morning, with the letter swimming around his thoughts like a water snake. He heard the letter in the hiss of garden hoses, the whispering suspirations of the wind blowing through his screen, the screeching of birds pecking at sunflower seeds on the sidewalk. It was a secret, a magical secret that “S” was the finest of all the letters and no one else knew it. One day he would devote his life to telling people of its significance.

It should have happened on a Saturday

Ordinary Handsome – Ghost

Excerpt from Ordinary Handsome: Available at Makes a great Valentine’s Day gift!


My lips, so dry. It’s hard to talk, but that doesn’t matter. Time is winding down.

The clock says 3:24.

I’m barely asleep and there’s an urgency in my blood that pulls me all the way awake. Shadows, heavy shadows, pulled in from the empty window, the curtains breathe in time to the wind.

Tonight, Jimmy, tonight is the time for confession. You’ve rehearsed, reassembled, mixed it with sly metaphors and sprinkled it with fancy colors, but at this hour, it walks naked.

A man – a man who looks like a boy, who is still a boy – walked into your room carrying a mattress. You know who is he is, what he was. He should be a ghost, or even beyond that, the memory of a ghost. But grief is the impetus of ghosts, not death. Death is silent; grief roars. And hunts.

Reminiscing in Tempo


My first wife preferred the company of gentlemen of color, with wholesome, shiny white teeth and big hoop earrings. They wore soft-soled Oxford shoes and spoke of jazz with reverent intimacy. They would know of someone who knew someone else who once sat in on a session with Stan Getz or Bud Powell. Those were the days when jazz clubs sprung up on every other block and you could smell hot peppers frying and gumbo bubbling over onto naked flame. The gin was cold and the shrimp, drenched with complex spices, taught the tongue a new language.

Continue reading Reminiscing in Tempo

Those two fellas

Hank and Pal sat on the porch, watching the sun climb down. Another hot one, a haze so thick a man could carve it up and serve it with a biscuit. Neither man spoke much. They knew each other well enough to dispense with the unnecessary.  Hank pulled out his pocket knife and started carving his nails. Pal crossed one leg over the other, noticed a loose boot lace, and set to remedy that before it got out of hand. A man with loose laces was a man who didn’t pay attention to the details, that was Pal’s philosophy.

Another hot one, and the stink of the day covered the cow field behind the house. Even the crows gave up their arguments with the hawks. Too hot to think about much. The sun settled down below the orchard, and the bloated red made the  trees look like wounded soldiers.

“Those two fellas,” said Hank. Continue reading Those two fellas

Ordinary Handsome – Museum of Modern Mathematics

Excerpt from Ordinary Handsome. Available from Amazon @  Makes a great Valentine’s Day gift… but remember the chocolate, too!


A piece of pi

We sat in Skelton Park. It was my favorite place to go in Handsome. A couple of park benches, dogwood trees, a fountain. Families sometimes picnicked there, and the children ran around and made noise. Arlene said she liked children, but did not want obligate herself to one. She was too impatient, she said. She did not want to rearrange herself in abidance to others.

I asked her if she wanted a piece of pi. This bolt, this algebraic jolt of pain, this 3.1415926535 8979323846 2643383279 5028841971 6939937510 5820974944 5923078164 0628620899 8628034825 3421170679 8214808651 3282306647 0938446095 5058223172 5359408128 4811174502 8410270193 8521105559 6446229489 5493038196 4428810975 6659334461 2847564823 3786783165 2712019091 4564856692 3460348610 4543266482 1339360726 0249141273 7245870066 0631558817 4881520920 9628292540 9171536436 7892590360 0113305305 4882046652 1384146951 9415116094 3305727036 5759591953 0921861173 8193261179 3105118548 0744623799 6274956735 1885752724 8912279381 8301194912 9833673362 4406566430 8602139494 6395224737 1907021798 6094370277 0539217176 2931767523 8467481846 7669405132 0005681271 4526356082 7785771342 7577896091 7363717872 1468440901 2249534301 4654958537 1050792279 6892589235 4201995611 2129021960 8640344181 5981362977 4771309960 5187072113 4999999837 2978049951 0597317328 1609631859 5024459455 3469083026 4252230825 3344685035 2619311881 7101000313 7838752886 5875332083 8142061717 7669147303 5982534904 2875546873 1159562863 8823537875 9375195778 1857780532 1712268066 1300192787 6611195909 2164201989


I said no, no children. The tears on my face feel like wax. Continue reading Ordinary Handsome – Museum of Modern Mathematics